Julian Assange’s interview with Hassan Nasrallah told us nothing new about Hezbollah, but it was interesting all the same for the very fact that it took place. Since 2006, Nasrallah has only spoken to one other Western reporter (Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker), and Hezbollah has minimized its contact with the Western media. The Party of God’s position effectively has been that it’s simply a waste of its time and resources to talk to an audience that views it as a bunch of recalcitrant terrorists under any circumstances.
Perhaps Nasrallah calculated that he stood to benefit from a direct address to a Western audience, what with Syria’s government teetering and Hezbollah situated no longer as a defiant underdog but as a status quo power in a transforming Arab world. Or maybe he just felt like he owed a karmic favor to the Father of Wikileaks and his new patrons at the Kremlin, who are underwriting Assange’s new TV show.
Either way, Mr. Wikileaks spoke for almost a half-hour with Nasrallah, and displayed some chops. He confronted Nasrallah about Hezbollah’s inconsistency, supporting all the Arab uprisings except for the one against its sponsor in Syria. He asked point blank about reports that Nasrallah was upset about corruption and a growing taste for luxury among Hezbollah cadres – concerns I’ve heard echoed by Hezbollah partisans.
A smiling Nasrallah replied in his usual confident and measured cadence, which might have come as a surprise to a Western audience that has never has seen a full performance. Syria has always backed the resistance, he said in a simple explanation for Hezbollah’s support of Bashar Al-Assad. About the Jewish state, Nasrallah explained Hezbollah’s long-held position in gentle language: the Party of God would be satisfied if there were one single state for Israelis and Palestinians.
There were only two, small, surprises.
The first came when Nasrallah, in what was either a display of humor or an unwitting security lapse, revealed some of the code words favored by Hezbollah’s fighters: “donkey,” “cooking pot,” and most intriguingly, “the father of the chicken.”
“No Israeli intelligence agent or computer agent is going to understand what the father of the chicken is or why they call him the father of the chicken,” Nasrallah bragged.
Then, in order to prove his mettle to dismissive career journalists, Assange asked a real stumper of a question: if Nasrallah really considered himself a freedom fighter, why didn’t he fight against the “totalitarianism” of a monotheistic God?
Nasrallah’s clearly got a kick out of it. “How could the universe last for billions of years in such beautiful harmony if there were more than one God?” Nasrallah said with a bemused smile. “We don’t fight to impose a religious belief on anybody.”